A Recap of Our 2020 Free Communication Webinars

by Haleigh Cadd | January 13, 2021
A Recap of Our 2020 Free Communication Webinars

A Recap of Our 2020 Free Communication Webinars

Here is a snapshot list of all of our 2020 free communication webinars. We wanted to host these discussions to get a wide variety of input from key voices in higher ed. In other words, the pandemic threw higher ed into an uncharted and unexplored digital landscape. For this reason, we wanted to synthesize what we knew to help institutions formulate their communications plans for 2020.

Communicating through COVID-19

In March, we hosted six professionals on this webinar. Each of these experts has deep experiences and bird’s eye views of communicating with students at higher education institutions.

Among this panel was the Associate Director for Research and Communication at the Hope Center for College, Edward Conroy. Also joining us was Liz Richter, the Senior Director of Student Success at the University of Texas at Arlington. Additionally, Dr. Alice Anne Bailey, a Higher Education Consultant, joined us and Dr. Jesse Boeding, a University of Pennsylvania graduate who specializes in communication on college campuses.

Communication during COVID-19 was the key idea in our 2020 free communication webinars.

From our panelists, we learned that now is the time to be proactive in your communication plans. For example, Edward Conroy brought up how the question: ”What can we do for you?” guides students to the next step in their education. Asking this question proactively allows students to meet deadlines and plan for the future. However, this can can take place only if they have a line of communication where their needs are more easily addressed.

Dr. Bailey seconded this idea by shining a light on the purpose of communication in higher ed. For instance, she mentioned that “students just want to know you’re listening and that you care.”

If you would like to listen to a recording of this free communication webinar, feel free to access it on our resource page here.

Current College Students’ Perspectives

In April 2020, we hosted six students to talk about their online learning experiences at the start of the pandemic. The overarching insight that we gained from this webinar was that everything changed for students through the pandemic.

For instance, these students faced challenges rooted in anxiety regarding public health and financial security because of lost jobs. These students also experienced canceled internships and lost job opportunities. This webinar served as a good baseline and a fulfillment of information that we, as professionals who partner with higher education, needed in April. Student perspectives was a vital aspect of our free communication webinars.

Dr. Bailey guest wrote a blog shining a light on how these challenges that students were facing in 2020 fueled the college enrollment decline, which covered more of what we discussed in this webinar. If you would like more insight into how student challenges impacted college enrollment, this blog can be accessed here.

Also, if you'd like to see through a window into the life of a student during the pandemic, you can watch a recording of this webinar here.

Meeting Admissions Goals in the Newly Digital and Competitive World

In June, two of our partners at both Wilmington University and University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) joined us to talk about how texting has enabled them to both impact the students they’re reaching, as well as increase their admissions yields.

We also wanted to address the admissions crises in our free communication webinars.We watched COVID-19 wreak havoc on admissions in 2020. For instance, applicant pools shrunk, admissions departments faced budget cuts, and some institutions gave unsustainable tuition discounts. Despite this, Dr. Jacqueline Varsalona, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Wilmington University, talked of how texting students helped nudge them towards the end goal of enrollment at her school. She also elaborated on how instead of using phone calls–which she mentioned was ineffective because students weren’t picking up the phone–admissions staff used texting, which increased student engagement by 33%.

Ariel Cassista, the Manager of Customer Relations Management Operations at the UMA, discussed how UMA was tackling enrollment decline, a change in student demographics, and a need to reach students in a convenient way. Texting answered all three of these needs and opened the line of communication between staff and students, thus nudging students to complete actions before they enrolled at UMA.

If you want to listen to our full recording of how these two higher institutional professionals used texting to reach their admissions goals, you can access this resource here.

COVID Communications Toolkit

Starting in late June, we released a three-part webinar series that unpacked our COVID Communications Toolkit Ebook. In our first webinar, we discussed the first step in COVID communications, which entailed assessment and planning.

This webinar of all of our free communication webinars addressed assessment and planning communications plans.

We set the groundwork in our first webinar by giving insight into what we see among student thought processes and the landscape at higher institutions. For instance, in July, we saw that when students moved home, they started considering their options for fall 2020. This, in turn, presented an opportunity for outreach by institutions to connect with students.

From this point, institutions can start their communications planning. The crux of the concept is that to plan communications requires a five-step process: evaluating data, setting up segmentation, creating content and messaging, executing the plan, obtaining feedback, then restarting the cycle with the new data from this communications plan.

Messaging discussed in our free communication webinars.


In our second webinar, we focused on key audiences and messages. We first established the context by discussing how student personas are widely varied and widely diverse. With this said, messaging must change and morph according to what would be most effective to target the specific student persona that your communications plans are trying to target. This, of course, also changes according to the content of the message and which department it’s coming from.

In our last webinar in the series, we covered executing and optimizing your communications plan. The key to success in this part of communications planning is, summarily, planning with the end in mind. In other words, we recommended that institutions consider what desired outcome they want, and then ask questions as to how their communications formulate the outcome they want.

Outcomes in communications plans talked of in our free communication webinars.

Retention During COVID-19 and Beyond: Supporting Students’ Mental Health

In mid-August, we teamed up with our friends at Active Minds to discuss the link between student retention and students’ mental health. In this webinar, we discussed how feelings of safety, esteem, and a sense of connection are vital to a students’ academic success in school. This is a concept based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is a theory supported by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

In this webinar, we unpacked how fostering mental health in students should be a crucial piece for schools' priorities. In order to foster good mental health in students, connection and outreach are necessary. This is where communicating through texting can come in. If you would like to watch a full recording of the webinar, feel free to access it here.

Learn More

At Signal Vine, we believe effective communication between staff and students substantially and positively impact any institution's success. In 2020, we had the opportunity to comb through successful aspects of communications planning in our 2020 free communication webinars. If you're interested in listening or browsing any of our past webinars, feel free to access them on our resource page here.

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